You are probably already using several content delivery channels. Probably even a dozen because - if we look at the latest research of the Content Marketing Institute – this is the average number of channels used by most companies. – Honestly, as marketers we probably use too many of them. And the ones we use most probably do not give the effect we want – says Robert Rose, CMI strategist. That's why we need a channel plan.

Optimizing content promotion channels is preceded by a few steps, explains Rose in the CMI University online course. Previously, we should build our own audience to help us differentiate content (as we said in the „Building the audience” post) and develop a unique message that stands out in the marketplace. Then we begin  to optimize our communication channels.

So we are wondering how this content could be expressed over time? What means could we use: a blog, a printed magazine, a newsletter, a webinar, a white paper? We think about these channels and how we can develop them.

6 steps to optimize the channel

1) situational analysis (what needs to be done, change to make the narrative more effective)

We start with an audit. We look at the channels we use and try to understand if we want to change, interrupt, or continue our activities. Some of these platforms, such as the Facebook page, can handle very well and we do not want to disturb or complicate it. We do not want the truth to change anything, because the fanpage drives us traffic, we succeed there.

Other media such as Twitter, LinkedIn or blogs may have different degrees of success. Let’s try to honestly assess the situation with each channel, and then decide if we should stop driving at all, or maybe just change what we do there. Or a third solution: we just need to deliver more content, because we’re really good at it? Such analysis will also help inform our team from content planning.

2) defining the goal for the channel (including its personality, tone, velocity and other related initiatives)

Each channel we want to manage should have a purpose: why are we doing it? Facebook’s goal can be simply to feed traffic to our blog or website, or to subscribe to our email newsletter. This is a clear goal. We need to understand what our assumption is because it affects the editorial strategy we want to use in a given channel.

Each medium also has its audience, so we should determine what „personality”, tone, result for every single post directed to this audience. The channel has its audience and purpose, and we are trying to find out exactly what the strategy and assumptions are for that channel.

3) content / conversation plan (entering into a wider story, when a channel enters story, what content )

It’s content optimization and conversation plan. This is nothing more than a determination, eg how do we respond to comments on our social media channels? How do we deal with what is going on in our blog for comments and conversations? What is the content we will use there? How is it related to the greater story we are trying to tell? When does a medium with its message enter our wider storytelling?

„Typically, a brand launches a product or reintroduces something for a community of customers, and in truth may not want to run a social network before it fits well into a marketing plan,” Rose explains. It may take several months for a proper campaign to run until the channel starts talking to the public. It may not be immediate. „Let’s start thinking about the different channels in terms of when they make sense, and at what point they represent our larger narrative,” Rose argues.

4) establishing indicators, channel expectations

At this stage, we must make sure we have adequate indicators of success in our medium. What will be the proper measurements for each channel? Likes? Motion? Available? Retweety? Or maybe everything? We make sure we know what the success of the channel is.

5) which persons / archetypes of content the channel address and what is the result for each area

Archetypes of content purpose / intent are discussed in more detail in article Mission: Possible. These are 4 „personas”: poet, professor, preacher and promoter (the latter refers to the content we create to facilitate the sale of a product or service, address the needs and wants of the audience, drives engagement). Then each persona that is addressed by the channel, we can make conscious decisions to say that this particular channel, this social media platform, this e-mail newsletter is not going to try and address individual audiences or individual types of personas that we develop. But we need to make those conscious decisions. Understand them and understand why we’re creating them so that we can understand if we have gaps. Do we need a separate channel for this particular audience? Or can it already exist with one that already is doing things?

6) and the last one – a editorial calendar (channel specific, „driven” by many initiatives, balanced in velocity, tone, structure of desired actions etc.).

In the most specific dimension we need this for a particular channel. What does the calendar do? We wrote about it more in the article „Editorial calendar –it pays off”, but in a nutshell, we need to work 3, 6, 8, 12 weeks in advance, so create content that will not be released for months. This gives us the opportunity to post all the current and special things that we need to improvise if we want to use newsjacking, if we want to address something that is currently happening. Understanding where we are heading helps us to improvise better during our journey.

Editorial plan for a channel

This may be a super simple version of the editorial plan for the medium (you can see example for a Facebook fanpage in the image below). There should be a sheet in Excel so that we can immediately see the strategy for each of the channels we manage: What is it? What structure? How does it work? What kind of actions would we like to perform on this channel? What do we mainly want to achieve? Such identification will first of all enable efficient communication and understanding of what we are really doing with the ecosystem of the content we are trying to create. This is at the root of a good channel plan.

Systematize the media and content types

Let’s move briefly through the types of channels / media we have available as a brand. According to the generally known systematics these are paid, earned (by the quality of our content) and owned media. These may correspond to the specific archetypes mentioned above. We will outline a brief outline of what types of content can be subordinated to different channels by purpose. Of course, this is not a breakaway division. We will see that these areas penetrate and overlap (the world is not black and white anyway). Next, we will describe the question of combining and mixing.

  1. Social media, advertising (paid and earned) – content preacher, promoter

Content is created to attract audiences to a deeper story we tell or commit (eg, to subscribe), engage the audience. We use the community as a means of strengthening according to the principle: content is fire, social media is petrol.

2. Website, email, blog (owned) – content poet, preacher, professor

Our own media channels, which deliver deeper value where we inspire, emit emotions.

3. PR, articles, guest posts, native (earned) – all content models

Publications on other media are to promote or demonstrate the value of our approach, vision and „take” the audience to our platforms.

Channel mix

What is the mix for the channels that we’re trying to create here? This will not be a very detailed plan, it is simply about giving a general idea of when we start mixing up our paid, owned, and earned media strategies, how we can start applying. As Rose points out, specific use is always part of a specific plan. – One of there reasons we want to do this content purpose — whether it’s persuasive content, or preacher content, or promoter, or professor, or poet – all of this kind of content can be mapped to the kinds of channels that will be appropriate for it. Now they appropriateness will be entirely, really, up on your business and your unique situations, says the strategy specialist at CMI.

When we begin to break down our „content personas” into paid, owned and earned media, pretty clear paths appear. Let’s look at the content of the preacher or promoter – these are mostly used at the paid level. – When we pay for space on a particular type of platform, whether native, banner or hospitable post for which we pay, their assumption is most often attracting the audience. In other words, we are trying to bring someone into our „church”. Or we promote content and pay for the privilege of being in a place to sneak our audience and attract them to our channels, Rose says.

In earned media (where we use PR) – here we want to think firstly either how to promote something new, or our unique approach that we want to spread. For example: someone writes about our great piece of cotent, describes it in detail, and it appears in the 'New York Times’ or something like that. Or we create the most inspiring stories that people share in all these media. The earnest is where we want our story out therew. We win the audience, but we do not have to pay for it – we’re earning it based on the quality of that story.

These external platforms, all PR, articles and guest posts etc. show the value of our approach. Use the fact that we make our way to promotion. Wherever it maybe, we demonstrate quality so that we assure our audience that we are a source of value. As a result, the audience will want to come in and integrate or subscribe to our content.

What does it mean in terms of content  creation? If we take elements like social media ads, paid or not, they are designed to attract audiences. So, let’s save this wonderful detailed article that we are going to write and pay for placement on the 'Forbes Brand Voice’ or in a similar place. Write a different article that pulls people into that in-depth articles othat you’re stealing the audience. So that basically people look at that paid placement and go, I want more of that. Where can I find more?

And here we go to our own media, like a website, e-mailing or blog. They usually use the archetypes of a professor, a preacher, and a poet. They have  to deliver deeper values, or creating a situation – as Rose describes – when we „invited the audience to our home” and wanted to teach them something more detailed. We’re actually inspire them in depth, teach them to laugh, make them cry et.cetera. The ultimate basically to persuade, when you get to the marketing copy and ad copy, that your solution, of course, is the best one.

In this way, we use platforms to attract audience. Demonstrating the value of our approach and that we are a source of value. That’s why we’re paying for the placement to begin with. In both our own and paid media the ultimate goal is – when it comes to marketing and advertising – to convince others to come over and ntegrate or subscribe to our content. It’s a good way to think about your channels and a channel plan.